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May 5th, 2004 - The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal

May 5th, 2004

May 5th, 2004
12:00 am

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Woo... Hoo?
I've never been happier to turn 35 in three months.

But man, though I hope it won't come to that, I'm pretty sure it will in the next three years or so. Right after the elections.

Current Mood: scaredscared

(46 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

TimeEvent
11:58 am

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How Do You Get To The Westgate Mall?

I live across the street from the Westgate Mall, which is awfully convenient. It's not a great mall, but it's got pretty much everything you'd look for in your average cluster of chain stores: It's got a Waldenbooks, and a Suncoast, and a Hallmark store, and an Electronics Boutique.

And a food court with the obligatory McDonald's and fake Japanese cuisine, of course.

To get from my house to the mall, you exit the front door, make a right, walk down the sidewalk and cross the street, and then walk across the parking lot diagonally until you enter the department store. This are pretty simple instructions, and even someone as directionally-challenged as I am can get there via the usual path.

There are other routes, however. My wife, if she was in one of her capricious moods, might tell you to go left at the front door, then left again at the end of the street, then left again at the end of the block, and then go straight until you hit the Dillard's. This round-the-block method would also work, and be slightly more efficient at aiming you straight at the mall - though it would be a block longer, of course.

None of these directions, however, would work for my uncle, who is confined to a wheelchair and cannot walk for more than about twenty feet. For one thing, he couldn't get down the steps in our front porch. For my uncle, he'd have to get in a car and drive, and therefore probably should stay off the sidewalk.

Furthermore, we cannot forget the joggers, who would like to get a two-mile run in before they pack on the pounds at McDonald's. Therefore, to those people I would strongly suggest making a left at the door, then a right at the end of the block, then a left at the stoplight, go all the way down until you hit the end of the road, make a right, go past Max's Delicatessen, and after you see Heinen's on your right make a right at the next stoplight. Go all the way down that road until you get to W 210th street, make another right, and jog until you see the food court on your right-hand side.

And, of course, if you're into extreme malling, you will no doubt wish to get to the mall via the trans-Siberian route, which involves driving down to the Cleveland airport, taking a red-eye to Russia, getting on the Siberian railroad until you get to the opposite side of the world near China, then taking a specially-chartered flight that takes you over US air space and parachuting onto the roof of the mall. You will, of course, need a passport and a set of lockpicks, since I'm led to believe the doors on the roof are usually locked.

All of these directions are technically correct. There is no single path that will get you to the Westgate Mall, and of course not all directions will work for everyone. (I haven't mentioned my Directions for the Agoraphobic, which involve cloistering yourself in a beekeepers' hat to shield yourself from the crowds while a trusted friend leads you round to the back entrance.) I can give you a thousand different directions - each of which will, given time and effort, get you to the Westgate Mall from my door.

But that's not what most people ask when they say, "How do I get to the Westgate Mall?"

They don't want to know "What is a way to the Westgate Mall," but "What is the best way to the Westgate Mall?" In other words, what is the quickest and most reliable method that will work for the widest variety of people?

And to questions like that, there are usually only one or two good answers.

One of the things I frequently get in my journal is, "How dare you tell me that's the way to be happy? I do it differently! How can you be so arrogant as to tell me there is only one path?"

And to you, I say, there are plenty of paths. Some of them are really likely to get people lost. Some of them involve a lot more effort than others. However, as far as I'm concerned there are only a few paths that I feel will get the majority of people to their destination quickly and efficiently.

One of the problems in America is that we want every answer to be right. To do otherwise is to make an unkind judgement that says, Boy, that chick is making her life a lot harder than it needs to be. We can avoid passing judgement - which is, as we all know, wrong and leads to Republicanism - by redefining all of our questions so that there is no right answer. For example, you can make all of my directions invalid by asking, "Well, what about blind people? They can't follow your directions because they can't see the mall to cross the parking lot!"

Of course there are exceptions; there always are. But do you want me to give every person a complex set of directions that includes a separate way for the blind, and the people who can't tell right from left, and the cool people who wouldn't be caught dead at Dillard's... Or should I try to create a set of directions that works for 95% of the people out there, then worry about the exceptions as they come up?

I suppose the directions are "dangerously simple," as I'm often accused of being, if I just handed them out to blind guys. But I kind of hope that the blind understand that their path is going to have to be different, and will ask for clarification.

The obvious parry, of course - and I can see the twitch in your typing fingers - is to say, "A ha! But Ferrett, those are directions from your house. I live in a different house. Your metaphor does not apply, and therefore your example is invalid!"

To which I say, I know. But chances are good that wherever you come from, you'll be using roads to get there, and maybe planes if you're far enough away. To do that, you'd better have access to a good car, and have enough money for a plane ticket. And be able to read a map.

If you don't have access to a car and live in Montana, it's highly unlikely that you'll be getting to my mall. Yes, there are a lot of routes that can get you to the mall from Montana, but most the convenient ones involve being able to drive somewhere and having enough money to afford gas.

There is general advice that just works - and those are the cars and savings account of the world. Try to keep a positive attitude. Exercise regularly and work out right. Be honest about what you do, and don't excuse assy behavior just because it comes from your friends. Those are the simple directions in life that work for just about everybody, and it's good stuff.

Likewise, remember that there are many paths to get places. All of them work, to a certain extent. But a lot of those directions are complicated and get people lost, and many of them involve a lot of sidetracks and needless diversions that don't help you get where you need to be.

When I write one of my posts on What I've Learned In My Life, I'm doing it because I think these are the most foolproof directions, and I believe that you live relatively close to me.

I could be wrong, of course. I often am. But I'm trying to find the best path, and telling me that every path someone uses to attain happiness is equally valid is the same as telling me that the trans-Siberian mall route is just as good as the "take a right" method.

Some paths are better. The trick is finding out which ones work for the majority of people.

(38 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

TimeEvent
12:38 pm

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A Good Point, Brought Up By sharnakh

Happiness is ephemeral. Contentment is stable.

You can be happy for brief moments at a time. Happiness takes you by surprise, where you look around in wonder for a moment and go, "Holy crap, this is great!" As an emotion, happiness tends to have a very short half-life, and I think a lot of depressives get upset when they're not full-on giggling-and-grinning all the time.

Nobody's seized by continual moments of joy. It'd be like having an orgasm every thirty seconds; it would be exhausting.

However, what you can have in between the moments of happiness is contentment - a state where you look around and go, "No, this is pretty good. I don't have any regrets I can't live with. Things are going where I want them to, with a few exceptions - and hell, there are always exceptions."

Contentment can be really boring sometimes... But it's a good boredom, a satisfying one. You know what's going to happen within a certain range, and you're usually fairly accurate about how your friends and loved ones are going to react if something bad happens.

If you're really in the mood for surprises, then you're going to want to look for happy - but that old substitute "psychodrama" will serve when happiness evades you, and it's a lot more reliably found.

Content can mean that your highs aren't quite as high. After all, that giddy elation after you've avoided death by the narrowest of margins? Well, you just can't get that anywhere else. But to get that elation, you have to put yourself in mortal danger - and that can be a drag if, say, your parachute fails to open.

With contentment, your lows are a lot smaller - but the highs are pretty damn high, still making your average a lot higher than the continual bungee jump of a psychodrama-filled life.

Happiness, as Dennis Leary infamously said, comes in small bursts. It's a cookie or a cigarette or a three second orgasm... And that's it. You come, you eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to fucking work.

The question is, what do you do with yourself in between the orgasms and the cookies? Are you bridging those bursts of joy with a spiky landscape of highs and lows, or are you trying to build a stable platform between them?

When I say, "Here's how you find happiness," realize that I speak wrong. Anyone can find happiness now and then - and pretty much everyone does. What I'm trying to point people at is contentment, which is a vastly different thing.

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(29 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

TimeEvent
05:10 pm

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I Must Be Odd.
I just saw a commercial for Infusium 23 - the only hairstyling product that was personally named by Duck Dodgers.

In any case, the commercial featured these women with these wild, long tresses, staring at the camera and proclaiming how they were terrified to go outside. These women looked great; I really get off on long hair to begin with, and I wanted to run my fingers through their curls and tangles.

Then the camera flashed, and suddenly we were looking at a bunch of poodles. This cool black chick's hair was reduced to a tight spring of manufactured curls, as if her hair had been replaced by a set of organic Slinkies. The hot, wild brunette chick suddenly sported the exact same boring hairstyle as every other women in the shampoo commercials - the flat, ironed hair that just hung limply around her face, as spirited as a beaten POW.

I loved the women with the uncombed hair. The women post-transformation just struck me as being too gussied up. But I guess the trend these days is for carefully-coiffed, stiffly-presented women, as opposed to a natural look.

Oh well.

Current Mood: cynicalcynical

(51 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

TimeEvent
09:00 pm

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Things I Forget
Home-made peanut sauce is so yummy.

Current Mood: hungryhungry

(37 shouts of denial | Tell me I'm full of it)

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